Submitted to: CSA News
Publication Type: Popular Publication
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/1/2017
Publication Date: 7/6/2017
Citation: Liebig, M.A. 2017. Aligning land use with land potential. CSA News. 62:15.
Interpretive Summary: Integrated agricultural systems (IAS) represent a form of agriculture whereby multiple agricultural enterprises interact in space and/or time, and the interactions result in synergistic resource transfer among enterprises. An emphasis on multiple enterprises makes IAS well-suited for future growing conditions, as broadened production portfolios can serve to enhance adaptability to increasingly variable weather and market conditions. Adoption of IAS could facilitate improved alignment of land use with land potential because of an expanded range of management options, allowing for greater flexibility in managing for the unique opportunities and degradation risks associated with each type of land. Such a development could result in a transition towards multi-functional agricultural landscapes, improved delivery of multiple ecosystem services, and ultimately, a more sustainable agriculture. Achieving greater IAS adoption, however, requires removing barriers, including making available the required information for their effective use.
Technical Abstract: Current agricultural land use is dominated by an emphasis on provisioning services by applying energy-intensive inputs through relatively uniform production systems across variable landscapes. This approach to agricultural land use is not sustainable. Integrated agricultural systems (IAS) are upheld as a means to achieve sustainable use of agricultural land. Integrated agricultural systems represent an alternative to prevailing agricultural land use whereby site-adapted enterprises are implemented in a manner to enhance synergistic resource transfer among enterprises and sustainable delivery of ecosystem services. Deployment of IAS on agricultural land involves placing the ‘right enterprise’ at the ‘right intensity’ at the ‘right time’ on the ‘right location’, with the inherent attributes of location informing management decisions associated with other variables. Considerable research and education is needed to facilitate IAS adoption by producers. Central to IAS adoption is the need to evaluate the balance of ecosystem service outcomes from IAS to determine the efficacy of enterprise x management scenarios to enhance agricultural sustainability, while ensuring thresholds to inherent land potential are not exceeded.